Updated at 1 p.m. September 1, 2017: Mayor Sylvester Turner has just asked some residents who live close to Addicks Reservoir and have taken on water to leave their homes during his Friday news conference.
Due to the waters that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing from Addicks in an effort to clear the reservoir as quickly as possible, the water will continue to flood the area near Addicks, which is outlined by I-10 to the north, Gessner to the east, Briarforest to the south and the reservoir to the west, for the next 10 to 15 days, Turner said. The evacuation is voluntary.
While the floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey have begun to recede across much of Houston, people who have sustained flooding due to the releases from Addicks will continue to see several feet of water in their homes for days if not weeks to come, Turner acknowledged. So he wants everyone to leave.
"I simply do not feel comfortable with you remaining in your homes with water, and I have to take into account the stress that's being imposed by our first responders," Turner said.
On Thursday, Addicks and Barker reservoirs continued to gush water from controlled releases. While Harris County Flood Control and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had previously announced plans to ultimately increase the controlled releases from each reservoir to 8,000 cubic-feet per second, on Thursday they backed off that estimate. The current plan is to keep releasing about 7,000 cubic-feet per second at Addicks and 6,300 cubic-feet per second at Barker.
Which is still plenty of water.
Since the reservoirs finally crested on Wednesday night — a development that caused Fort Bend County Emergency Management to issue a mandatory evacuation order overnight that freaked a bunch of people out — the floodwaters have continued to move out of the reservoirs, into adjacent neighborhoods and then Buffalo Bayou.
Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District who has been the public face of the organization since Harvey hit, gave an update Thursday on how the releases are affecting Buffalo Bayou.
“The good news is that the bayou has remained fairly steady overnight from Highway 6 all the way down to Piney Point and Shepherd. So we do not expect the flooding to worsen along Buffalo Bayou,” Lindner stated, pausing to take a breath before getting to the real point. “We also do not expect the flooding to get any better. As long as the release rates are maintained at the reservoirs there will continue to be flooding along Buffalo Bayou roughly at the level it is now.”
Or to put it more bluntly, the people whose houses flooded due to the releases from Addicks and Barker won't see the water receding any time soon.
Even though the Corps and Flood Control have both underscored that the dams are solid and have held up fairly well during Harvey, the entities are still intent on getting water out of both of the more than 70-year-old reservoirs as rapidly as possible.
Both Flood Control and the Corps officials have insisted that the dams are perfectly sound and have held up well during the storm and flooding (despite the 2009 report that found Addicks and Barker are the most dangerous dams in the country) but both agencies are still locked on getting the water out of the reservoirs as soon as possible. Why? Well, because, as Lindner acknowledged "the dams are being put in an extraordinary situation right now."
In reality though, with so much water sloshing around, nobody knows exactly how the dams or the other structures fared during Harvey. The flooding knocked out some of the gauges along the dams and further down on Buffalo Bayou, but engineers are only beginning to be able to really get a look at the reservoirs and other structures that may have sustained damage, Edmund Russo, an engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stated. They won't really be able to get in there until the water level drops down.
And that will take a while. Russo said on Thursday that it will be weeks, if not months, before Addicks and Barker are completely drained allowing the Corps to end the controlled releases.
Russo pointed out that the Tax Day floods were half the size of the floods caused by Harvey. It took the Corps about three months to completely empty the reservoirs after the April 2016 flooding due to subsequent heavy rain, Russo said. He said the Corps expects it will take at least three months to completely discharge all the water from Addicks and Barker in the wake of Harvey, and that's assuming there won't be more rain rolling into the area during that span of time.
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That means the homes near Addicks and Barker and along Buffalo Bayou that were flooded by the controlled releases will remain flooded while the reservoirs drain. Fingers crossed we don't get any major storms in between now and then or the wait could be even longer.
On the upside, there was some actual good news on Thursday. There is still flooding along San Jacinto River and portions of Clear Creek and Cypress Creek, but overall, conditions are improving and water is steadily draining off across most of the 22 watersheds in the Houston area.
In other words, it's going to take time but Houston will eventually dry out.